Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is thought of as an autoimmune disease affecting the Central Nervous System. But what does that mean? Autoimmune means that the body's defense (immune) system is confused and attacks the body itself instead of foreign invaders (such as viruses). But usually in MS the part of the body that is attacked is the Central Nervous System, meaning the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. Other autoimmune disease include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, childhood diabetes (diabetes mellitus type I), and certain thyroid diseases. So why do some people get MS, while others get lupus, and there may be some who have both? These are the types of questions which scientists and doctors should be answering.
Many Americans think that most scientific research happens right here in the U.S. While it is true that there are many notable American scientists, it is getting harder and harder to keep good scientists in this country, The National Institute of Health (NIH) is funding less and less research and scientists and doctors are forced to look elsewhere to pay for research. This means that:
1. Other countries are making a lot of the scientific advances that used to be made here. For example in Canada the Federal government is funding research into what the different autoimmune disorders can learn from each other. Stem cell experts are leaving the U.S. and are working in other countries to make scientific advances.
2. American research is often colored by the pharmaceutical industry, since much of the research done here is funded by companies and not by the government. For example, what we really need in MS research is a simple way of figuring out which medicine an individual patient will respond to. This would help doctors and patients, but not pharmaceutical companies. When you see a commercial on TV for a medication, the companies like to imply that the drug is right for everyone. They want as close to 100% of the market that they can get; with a simple blood test telling us which drug would work for you specifically, each company would get a smaller market share.
To keep America strong, we need to keep our research strong as well.
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